All posts by Patty Vitale

Patty Vitale

About Patty Vitale

Patty Vitale lives in Germantown, Maryland. Born and raised in Massachusetts, she has lived in the Washington, D.C. area since 1986. She has a B.S. Business Administration from Boston University and a J.D. from American University. Patty is a member of the Society of Mayflower Descendants as well as the Daughters of the American Revolution, Hungerford’s Tavern Chapter, where she serves as the Chair of the Women’s Issues Committee.

Dom Vitale’s war

Some of Dom Vitale’s fellow soldiers.

Last year, while going through boxes of old photos at my dad’s house, we came across a plastic bag containing hundreds of photos taken by my great-uncle Dominic Vitale during the Second World War. The photos were curled and disorganized, but on the backs of many of the photos Uncle Dom had written the names of his buddies who were in the photos, as well as dates, locations, and the names of their hometowns. I took the photos home with me, hoping to find a way to organize them electronically and eventually find relatives of his army buddies who would appreciate seeing them. Continue reading Dom Vitale’s war

Genealogical gold

Click on images to expand them.

My great-great-great-great-grandfather, James Luke, emigrated from Birmingham, England in 1816 at the age of 20. I’ve been lucky enough to find a couple of documents that identify his parents as William and Margaret Luke, but I’ve been trying to discover his mother’s maiden name for years.

James was a prominent citizen in both Cambridge and Wilbraham, Massachusetts, so I have been able to find information about him in a number of publications, and learned that he was one of the founding members of the Harvard Street Methodist Episcopal Church in Cambridge. Further research revealed that the records of that church are now kept at the library of the Boston University School of Theology. Continue reading Genealogical gold

ICYMI: Piece work

[Editor’s note: This post originally appeared in Vita Brevis on 19 December 2016.]

I have developed a soft spot for two of my great-great-grandparents, Domenico Caldarelli and Maria Tavano. They were born in Italy, Domenico in Naples and Maria in Villa Santa Maria, Chieti. They emigrated to New York with their four children around 1890.

I had my first glimpse of Domenico in New York in the 1900 Federal Census, when he was listed as a prisoner in Sing Sing. Was this my Domenico? The prisoner was older than I thought Domenico should be. Why was he in Sing Sing? What happened to his family? Continue reading ICYMI: Piece work

Ancestral homes

Alumni Chapel of Wilbraham & Monson Academy, designed and built by Porter Cross.

I recently drove from Maryland to New England for a week of genealogical research with the NEHGS Research Tour in Hartford. I went up a day early to start my week with a day in Wilbraham, Massachusetts, where my great-great-great-great-grandfather, Porter Cross, had lived. What a day it was!

A year ago I discovered Porter Cross’ obituary while researching in the archives of the Museum of Springfield History. According to the obituary, Porter “was a trustee of Wesleyan academy at Wilbraham and while living in that town designed and constructed the Methodist memorial church.” Continue reading Ancestral homes

Finding the Amadons

The first round of cleaning.

Back in April I attended the biennial conference of the New England Regional Genealogical Consortium (NERGC) in Springfield, Massachusetts. Knowing that I had ancestors who lived in Springfield, I was excited about what I might find at the local repositories. I was not disappointed.

My first order of business was to find the graves of my great-great-great-great-great-grandparents, Titus and Sabra (Gilbert) Amadon. Continue reading Finding the Amadons

Identifying a family bible

The McKenna bible after restoration.

Growing up, I remember having two huge old family bibles in the house. They were in terrible condition with detached covers, loose pages, and other damage. My mother said they had been that way since she was a teenager. The bibles had been missing for some time but finally resurfaced a couple of years ago. I was able to find a book restorer who did an amazing job repairing the family heirlooms.

Both bibles were published in the late 1800s and had been kept by my great-grandmother, Helen (McKenna) Dickinson, who died when I was in college. One bible was clearly owned by Helen’s in-laws, John and Carrie (Luke) Dickinson. It contains birth, marriage and death records of both the Dickinsons and the Lukes. Continue reading Identifying a family bible

Piece work

maria-tavano-deathI have developed a soft spot for two of my great-great-grandparents, Domenico Caldarelli and Maria Tavano. They were born in Italy, Domenico in Naples and Maria in Villa Santa Maria, Chieti. They emigrated to New York with their four children around 1890.

I had my first glimpse of Domenico in New York in the 1900 Federal Census, when he was listed as a prisoner in Sing Sing. Was this my Domenico? The prisoner was older than I thought Domenico should be. Why was he in Sing Sing? What happened to his family? Continue reading Piece work

Honoring a Civil War veteran

JDickinson1My great-great-great-grandfather, Elijah Dickinson, enlisted in Union Army in 1862. He was joined by both of his brothers, Atwood and James, as well as their sister’s husband, Nelson Cohaskey. The four of them served in Vermont’s 6th Infantry. Elijah died of disease during the war and is buried in Washington, D.C. Nelson also died while serving and is buried in Annapolis, Maryland. Atwood survived the war, moved from Vermont to Iowa, and is buried there. Continue reading Honoring a Civil War veteran

Solving a family mystery

Cottuli Pastel PortraitMy mother was born with an unusual last name – Cottuli – which has been both a blessing and a curse for my research. The blessing is that when I find someone with that last name, they always turn out to be related. The curse is that it’s misspelled everywhere and documents can be difficult to find. Recently, however, the uncommon name led to a very happy set of circumstances.

My first cousin, Carl Cottuli, contacted me a couple of months ago and said that a woman in Rhode Island named Keri had reached out to him online. She was cleaning out her stepfather’s desk in Massachusetts and discovered a portrait of a woman, together with an 1896 baptismal certificate for Henrietta Lillian Cottuli. There are no markings on the portrait to identify whether the woman is Henrietta or someone else. Continue reading Solving a family mystery

Finding a better life

Susan Duross
Susan (Duross) McKenna, daughter of Terence Duross.

It is said time and time again that our immigrant ancestors came to America for a better life. What I often find in my research is that once they made the journey, they were met with hardship and heartache.

In 1845, my great-great-great-grandfather Terence Duross and his brother Charles emigrated from Trillick (Kilskeery parish) in County Tyrone, Ireland. They settled in Massachusetts where they were naturalized, married, and had children. Then in 1862, at age 36, Terence was struck by lightning and killed, leaving behind his wife and three small children. In 1876, Charles was killed in a railroad car accident at age 47, leaving his wife and six children ranging in age from 3 to 21. It was the not future they had envisioned, certainly. But given that they left Ireland at the time of the Great Famine, what choice did they really have? Continue reading Finding a better life